Monday, November 16, 2009

A Tale of Two Cakes

With Alice’s birthday quickly approaching, I have cakes on the brain. Alice reaps the benefits of a family scattered with two parties – one yesterday here in CT and one next weekend in NJ for my family.

The Healthy Cake

Make fun of me all you want, but I made Alice her very own special (and healthy!) mini birthday cake. Somehow the ingredient list (carrots, apple juice concentrate, wheat germ, whole wheat flour, etc.) and the notable absence of sugar didn’t set off my panic button that I was flirting with baking disaster. It didn’t fully hit me until I tried a bite of one of the extra mini cakes. And promptly spit it out….then rinsed out my mouth. How could I expect Alice to eat this? It was more of a Metamucil substitute than birthday cake!

Unfortunately, I had already started on the grown-up cake – a decadent, fudgy confection laced with coffee – way too rich, caffeinated, and allergen-laden for Alice’s first cake. Plus, I had invested so much time into her cake what with shredding carrots, boiling them in apple juice concentrate, then pureeing the mixture, etc., I was averse to tossing it. I justified feeding her the “cake” (I use this word loosely) because the cream cheese icing (recipe from same website) I made was actually quite tasty. I do have to admit I was a little nervous. If she refused her cake, I would have been bummed there were no 1st birthday cake smash pictures!

It turns out that I don’t know my daughter or my taste buds are off because get this – she actually ate the cake. And showed her appreciation by smashing it in her hair, all over the floor, her shirt, etc. For that, the dog was also appreciative.

While Alice was intrigued by the cake at first – as evidenced by her eyes lighting up and her playing with the icing – she wasn’t quite sure what to do with it… Was this a new toy? It’s on my highchair….should I eat it? Why is everyone looking at me? Daddy stepped in and gave her a lick of icing, which was all it took. Within moments, she dove head first into her cake.And then she proceeded to eat her cake…um, like a dog. Who knew watching your child eat cake like a dog could be the cutest. thing. ever?

I don’t mean to sound so down on the cake, obviously Alice liked it! I think my problem is that despite all the healthy ingredients, I expected a traditional moist and decadent carrot cake. I think the cake would benefit from some unhealthy and baby-unfriendly ingredients like regular flour and walnuts, but then it wouldn’t be a good baby’s first birthday cake, would it?
The real saving grace was the whipped cream cheese icing. Only four ingredients and oh so delicious. I might have eaten the leftovers spread over some graham crackers. Just maybe.

The Unhealthy Cake

Seeing as I went healthy on Alice’s cake, I had to balance things out with a decadent and nutritionally void grown-up cake. Being a die-hard Ina Garten fan, I opted for the Beatty’s Chocolate Cake and Buttercream icing, a recipe I’ve seen her make several times on her show and been itching to try.

I added an extra layer of excitement by using the Wilton Giant Cupcake pan, so I had to closely monitor the oven during baking. I deserve a slap on the wrist because I opened that oven door at least five or six times. And of course, I didn’t take note of the actual finishing time. Because the cupcake top portion is significantly smaller than the bottom, I let the bottom cook for about 10 minutes before filling the top side. I then set the time for another 20 minutes. About 7 toothpicks and 15 to 20 minutes later, I think it was done but that was two days ago and my brain is foggy.
This cake was a total win. The icing (I halved the recipe) was light and creamy. The cake was dense and rich, yet moist.

The only minor change to the recipe was using instant espresso instead of instant coffee; I trust Ina. And you should, too! Go make this cake!
More birthday fun to come!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Bevy of Baby Knits (in Chronological Order)

What is this? An early Christmas miracle? I think the last time I posted twice in a week was back in 2006. Let's hope the momentum continues!
Okay, let’s go back when back when I started my nearly a year-long hiatus on the blog (before yesterday’s post that is). I had a baby. Like any self-respecting knitter, I made an abundance of baby knits. Most of these knits were created during my two weeks of maternity leave before Alice was born. Some people nest, some people knit. Who’s to judge what’s better?
While I’ve been slow to keep up the blog, I’ve been relatively good about maintaining Ravelry. Good thing, because I don’t think I would even remember what I knitted, let alone the little details.

I started with a few sweaters, because a baby born in November needs lots of sweaters, right? And when a knitter talks about baby sweaters, they’re really just talking about EZ. With that, I made:


She grew out of this in like five minutes. But she looked damn cute for those five minutes! Okay, maybe a couple months. It was the perfect little newborn sweater – trim and close-fitting and just plain adorable. Also gender-neutral for future babes.

Oh so teeny! Just a couple days old!

Ravelry Link
Pattern: BSJ
Yarn: Vesper Sock Yarn in Meteor
Needles: Size 5 Addis
Dates Knitted: September 8, 2008 to September 30, 2008
Mods: No need to mess with perfection.
Comments: A great project for the Non-Superwash Vesper Sock Yarn patiently waiting in my stash.

In her beloved swing. I don't know what we would have done without that thing!

One Fish, Two Fish
Another project in my queue of baby knits well before I saw pink lines or ultrasounds were these little guys:

I mean, what newborn doesn’t need two bigger than life-size knitted fish?
I started the big guy at the end of October, but seemed to forget about him and his little friend. With Alice still refusing to make her entrance, I finished them up.

These are the softest, most adorable, most useless baby knit ever, but I lurve them. She’s too young to really enjoy them, but I know she will grow to love them (har, get it, grow! Sorry J ) I’ve started using them as props in photoshoots as a reference point for Alice’s growth and letting her play with them a bit. By play with, I mean gum and suck.
Ravelry Link
Pattern: Big Fish, Little Fish
Yarn: Blue Sky Dyed Cotton in Lemongrass and Aloe
Needles: Size 8 Addis
Dates Knitted: October 30, 2008 – November 17, 2008

With still no sign of Alice despite her impending her due date, I was worried about starting any big, valiant projects in fear that I would go into labor and not finish in time. I’m not quite sure why this prospect was so unsettling to me, but I stuck to knitting hats those last couple days before she was born. Of course, knitting a baby hat takes no time at all, so I knit a couple.

Sheep Hat

Sweet Little Alice, only 1 day old!

I started with a hat that I had been ogling for awhile. Who doesn’t love sheep? And how clever that the sheep’s wool is purled? Love. Unfortunately, this hat really did fit for only about a week and it was never a great fit. Weighing in close to 9 pounds, she wasn’t the teeniest baby after all. I still made her wear it because it was too stinkin’ cute not to.

Ravelry Link
Baby Sheep Hat by Melissa Burt
Days Knit: November 17-18 (my due date!)
Needles: Size 5 and 6
Yarn: All scraps from the stash! Boo-yah!
Mods: I added pink to the color scheme to make it a touch more girly. Who knew pink would become such a staple in my color palette?

On a high from my yarn thriftiness and ingenuity, I pulled some leftover scraps from a few Big Bad Baby Blankets I knitted for some other babies together into this little hat:

Flour Sack Baby Hat

Getting ready to leave the hospital

Ravelry Link
Pattern: My own, made up on the fly.
Needles: Size 7 and 8
Yarn: Blue Sky Organic Cotton in Sand, Nut, and Bone
Days Knit: November 18
So adorable. My all time favorite for her. I might need to make her another for next fall, I loved it so much. Blue Sky Cotton is just delicious and perfect for baby knits.

4 months old

A February Baby Sweater

Despite my purchasing the yarn for this sweater well before she was born, this knit did not make it to the needles until she was a couple months old. That’s fine because it would have been huge on her. In fact, it didn’t start to really fit her until the spring and still fits well, although it’s getting a little short. While I love the sweater and have received tons of compliments on it, I’m always nervous when she wears it. Especially now that she loves pulling on buttons. I think this will be the last buttoned baby sweater I’ll make for her for a little whilet. I weaved the ends in for inches, but I’m still anxiety-ridden the entire time she’s in the sweater. You think that’s bad? What would you think if I told you that one morning after dressing Alice, I decided there was no chance I could send her wearing her peapod sweater as the buttons were starting to loosen up. So, I took the scissors to the sweater and snipped the buttons off. Each and every one. For someone usually laid back, I’m really taking the button thing a little far. I can’t help it.

Ravelry Link
Pattern: February Baby Sweater
Needles: Size 7
Days Knit: February 21, 2009 to March 18, 2009
Yarn: Dream in Color Classy in Blue Lagoon

Digging through all my pictures since Alice was born makes me so nostalgic. And seems appropriate with her 1st birthday next Friday. I know it sounds cliche, but it really goes so fast. My baby is barely a baby anymore! Sniff sniff.
PS - I still have some other projects to catch up on. They’ll be trickling on through…

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why we like owls.

This whole owl trend of the past few years is quite convenient for my family. See, my grandma had a bit of an owl obsession. “Obsession” might even be an understatement. Her avocado fridge was cluttered with owl magnets – felt, ceramic, you name it. Owl figurines jockeyed for space on crowded window sills; cross stitch owl cushions adorned her couches. You get the picture. When she passed away in 2003, I could think of no better way to preserve her memory than by snagging one of her countless sets of owl salt and pepper shakers and a pair of owl mugs for my house.

I always chalked the owls up to a fondness for a 1970s trend that wouldn’t quit. That was until a couple weekends ago when I shared my theory with my mom, who laughed and informed me that the owl was my grandparents’ college mascot. I guess that makes sense, although I can’t image a day where my house would be decorated with a myriad of royal bulldogs.

Even though it’s been awhile since my grandma has gone, she seems to have passed her owl affinity on to us all. When Alice was born, my cousin, Kris, bought Alice a little owl outfit with a note enclosed about my grandma. My sister admitted this past weekend that she always reaches for the owl mugs first when she’s visiting. Whenever we see anything owl-related, we’re inexplicably drawn to it. It helps that owls are everywhere these days.

So while it’s a shame Alice never got to meet her great-grandmother, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy that Alice can help carry on my grandma’s tradition. So, when I saw this hat I knew I had to make it. It didn’t hurt that it’s one of the cutest new knits of the season.

Project Details.
Pattern: Hoot Hat, Spud & Chloe Pattern by Susan B. Anderson
Yarn: Mirasol Miski in Wine held double, Mirasol Sulka in Horseradish + scraps of cascade, lamb’s pride, and berocco ultra alpaca for face.
Needles: I’m pretty sure I used size 10 Addis. Maybe size 9, but I think 10…
Time to knit: 5 seconds. Okay, more like a couple hours.
-The real effort with this hat is in the finishing. The extra time spent seaming the hat flap to the main section and the time knitting the face will make or break this hat.

- I didn’t feel like dropping a ton of money on a baby hat for a baby who hates hats, so I went to knitters bargain basement aka my stash. I doubled up the miski to match the gauge of the sulka, but my gauge was still smaller than the pattern yarn. I read a number of people found the hat to be HUGE, so I knit the 6-12 month size for my 11 month old daughter. Even with the smaller gauge, it fits her but won’t for long.
- I would like to line all of my clothing with Mirasol Miski. Or at the very least, buy a bunch of baby llamas just so I can pet them.